KUMAMOTO, Japan - Tens of thousands of people are still living in temporary housing and shelters a year after powerful earthquakes struck Kumamoto Prefecture and neighboring areas in southwestern Japan, local officials said Thursday.
According to a Kumamoto prefectural government estimate, 47,725 people had yet to return to their homes as of the end of March, marking an increase of about 4,300 from figures released late last year, as more people wanted to live in privately owned rental housing that is partly subsidized by the government.
In the days after the quakes, which damaged or destroyed more than 190,000 homes in Kumamoto and neighboring Oita Prefecture, many people opted to sleep in their cars for fear of being caught indoors during an aftershock.
The direct death toll, following damage to homes and mudslides triggered by the quakes, totaled 50, while 170 people have died due to causes indirectly linked to the disaster such as developing deep vein thrombosis, known as economy class syndrome, due to prolonged inactivity such as sleeping in their vehicles.
The Kumamoto prefectural government hopes it will no longer need to provide temporary housing after building around 1,000 public housing units by April 2020.
As of late March, 777 people were living in public and other temporary housing provided by local governments other than the Kumamoto prefectural government.
A government panel on earthquake research has warned that while seismic activity is declining, local people are likely to feel tremors for some time yet.
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